GENERAL AUDIENCE OF 25 JUNE
At the General Audience in St.
Peter's Square, on Wednesday evening, 25 June, the Holy Father delivered
the following address.
1. The analysis we made during the preceding reflection was centered on
the words which God-Yahweh addressed to the first woman after original
sin: "Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you" (Gn
3:16). We concluded that these words contain an adequate clarification and
a deep interpretation of original shame (cf. Gn 3:7), which became part of
man and of woman together with lust. The explanation of this shame is not
to be sought in the body itself, in the somatic sexuality of both. It goes
back to the deeper changes undergone by the human spirit. This spirit is
especially aware of how insatiable it is with regard to the mutual unity
between man and woman.
This awareness blames the body, so to speak, and deprives it of the
simplicity and purity of the meaning connected with the original innocence
of the human being. In relation to this awareness, shame is a secondary
experience. If it reveals the moment of lust, at the same time it can
protect from the consequences of the three forms of lust. It can even be
said that man and woman, through shame, almost remain in the state of
original innocence. They continually become aware of the nuptial meaning
of the body and aim at preserving it from lust. Similarly, they try to
maintain the value of communion, that is, of the union of persons in the
unity of the body.
2. Genesis 2:24 speaks with discretion but also with clarity of the
union of bodies in the sense of the authentic union of persons: "A
man...cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh." From the context it
is seen that this union comes from a choice, since the man leaves his
father and mother to unite with his wife. Such a union of persons entails
that they should become one flesh. Starting from this "sacramental"
expression, which corresponds to the communion of personsof
the man and the womanin
their original call to conjugal union, we can understand better the
specific message of Genesis 3:16: that is, we can establish and, as it
were, reconstruct what the imbalance, in fact the peculiar distortion of
the original interpersonal relationship of communion, to which the
"sacramental" words of Genesis 2:24 refer, consists of.
Impulse to dominate
3. It can therefore be saidstudying
while on the one hand the "body," constituted in the unity of the personal
subject, does not cease to stimulate the desires of personal union,
precisely because of masculinity and femininity ("your desire shall be for
your husband"), on the other hand and at the same time, lust directs these
desires in its own way. That is confirmed by the expression, "he shall
rule over you".
The lust of the flesh directs these desires, however, to satisfaction
of the body, often at the cost of a real and full communion of persons. In
this sense, attention should be paid to the way in which semantic
accentuations are distributed in the verses of Genesis 3. Although there
are few of them, they reveal interior consistency. The man seems to feel
ashamed of his own body with particular intensity: "I was afraid, because
I was naked, and I hid myself" (Gn 3:10). These words emphasize the
metaphysical character of shame. At the same time, for the man, shame
united with lust will become an impulse to "dominate" the woman. ("he
shall rule over you.")
Subsequently, the experience of this domination is manifested more
directly in the woman as the insatiable desire for a different union. From
the moment when the man "dominates" her, the communion of personsmade
of the full spiritual union of the two subjects giving themselves to each
followed by a different mutual relationship. This is the relationship of
possession of the other as the object of one's own desire. If this impulse
prevails on the part of the man, the instincts that the woman directs to
him, according to the expression of Genesis 3:16, canand
a similar character. Sometimes, perhaps, they precede the man's "desire,"
or even aim at arousing it and giving it impetus.
And interior dimension
4. The text of Genesis 3:16 seems to indicate the man especially as the
one who "desires." This is similar to the text of Matthew 5:27-28, the
starting point of these meditations. Nevertheless, both the man and the
woman have become a human being subject to lust. Therefore the lot of both
is shame. With its deep resonance, it touches the innermost recesses both
of the male and of the female personality, even though in a different way.
What we learn from Genesis 3 enables us barely to outline this duality,
but even the mere references are very significant. Since it is a question
of such an archaic text, it is surprisingly eloquent and acute.
5. An adequate analysis of Genesis 3 leads to the conclusion that the
three forms of lust, including that of the body, bring with them a
limitation of the nuptial meaning of the body itself, in which man and
woman participated in the state of original innocence. When we speak of
the meaning of the body, we refer first to the full awareness of the human
being. But we also include all actual experience of the body in its
masculinity and femininity, and, in any case, the constant predisposition
to this experience.
The meaning of the body is not just something conceptual. We have
already drawn attention to this sufficiently in the preceding analyses.
The meaning of the body is at the same time what determines the attitudeit
is the way of living the body. It is a measure which the interior man,
that is, that heart which Christ referred to in the Sermon on the Mount,
applies to the human body with regard to his masculinity/femininity
(therefore with regard to his sexuality).
That meaning does not change the reality in itself, what the human body
is and does not cease to be in the sexuality that is characteristic of it,
independently of the states of our conscience and our experiences.
However, this purely objective significance of the body and of sex,
outside the system of real and concrete interpersonal relations between
man and woman, is, in a certain sense, "ahistorical." In the present
analysis, on the contraryin
conformity with the biblical sourceswe
always take man's historicity into account (also because we start from his
theological prehistory). Obviously it is a question here of an interior
dimension, which eludes the external criteria of historicity, but which,
however, can be considered historical. It is precisely at the basis of all
the facts which constitute the history of manalso
the history of sin and of salvationand
thus reveal the depth and very root of his historicity.
Linked with Sermon on the Mount
6. When, in this vast context, we speak of lust as a limitation,
infraction or even distortion of the nuptial meaning of the body, we are
referring above all to the preceding analyses regarding the state of
original innocence, that is, the theological prehistory of man. At the
same time, we have in mind the measure that historical man, with his
"heart," applies to his own body in relation to male/female sexuality.
This measure is not something exclusively conceptual. It determines the
attitudes and decides in general the way of living the body.
Certainly, Christ refers to that in his Sermon on the Mount. We are
trying here to link the words taken from Matthew 5:27-28 to the threshold
of man's theological history, considering them in the context of Genesis
3. Lust as a limitation, infraction or even distortion of the nuptial
meaning of the body can be ascertained in an especially clear way in our
first progenitors, Adam and Eve (despite the concise nature of the
biblical narrative). Thanks to them we have been able to find the nuptial
meaning of the body and rediscover what it consists of as a measure of the
human heart, such as to mold the original form of the communion of
persons. In their personal experience (which the biblical text enables us
to follow) that original form has undergone imbalance and distortionas
we have sought to prove through the analysis of shamealso
the nuptial meaning of the body, which in the situation of original
innocence constituted the measure of the heart of both the man and the
woman, must have undergone a distortion. If we succeed in
reconstructing what this distortion consists of, we shall also have the
answer to our question. That is, what does lust of the flesh consist of,
and what constitutes its theological and at the same time anthropological
specific character? It seems that an answer theologically and
as regards the meaning of Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount (cf.
already be obtained from the context of Genesis 3 and from the whole
Yahwist narrative, which previously enabled us to clarify the nuptial
meaning of the human body.